In its early promotional material for the ZX Spectrum, Sinclair often went to almost painful lengths to avoid using the word 'games'. Released 35 years ago this month, the microcomputer was designed by Sir Clive Sinclair with serious applications in mind, and an optimistic role as a central hub for the nation's households. Constantly reiterating its expandability, these initial adverts were all about tech, emphasising the Spectrum's 'massive' RAM of 16 or - crikey! - 48k, as well as its high resolution and accessories, including a printer and the doomed ZX Microdrive. As it turned out, the manufacturer was swimming against the tide. Programming? Hmm, might try and type in a few POKEs I suppose. Educational? Game of chess or Scrabble aside, not likely. No, what the majority of kids wanted from the Spectrum was games. And games, much to the chagrin of Clive Sinclair, were what they got - in their hundreds.
If you grew up with the ZX Spectrum, or indeed any home computer that ran games on cassette tape, it might be wise to avoid watching this video - it will make you feel very, very old.
An unnatural evolution of 8-bit hero Jon Ritman's adventures into isometrics, Head Over Heels shook the home computing world by the neck in 1987; berating every last scrap of sanity from player's addled minds with the game's unrelenting eccentricity overload.
Head Over Heels took the exploration and puzzle solving of previous isometric games and expanded them exponentially with unique and dynamic characterisation, lending a revolutionary, cerebral slant to the typical single-screen arcade adventure. Each of the 300 rooms provided some form of vibrant challenge, requiring all manner of cunning, brute force, twitch reflexes and strategy for the player to progress. This constant cross and change of speed, dexterity and analytical prowess is, above all the game's other incredible qualities, the real reason players embraced Head Over Heels and continue to thrill over it today.
And, as if creating an absorbing, logistical labyrinth inside our home computers wasn't enough, Ritman also infused an element of gameplay which has seldom been attempted; even to this day. Players were required to control both Head and his obscure partner, Heels, alternately in order to solve the many physical conundrums laid out before them, but the real brilliance is in the necessity for co-operation. Some puzzles required the high-leaping, doughnut throwing talents of Head, while others demanded the hot-footed, object carrying skills of Heels. And, for those particularly irksome tasks, the two characters could be brought together and combined (Head would be place on top of Heels, totem pole style) allowing their individual strengths to be pooled and greater challenges overcome.